Three notebooks supposedly containing Russian military secrets are handed to a British publisher during a Russian book conference. The British Secret Service are naturally keen to learn if these notebooks are the genuine article. To this end, they enlist the help of the scruffy British publisher Barley Blair, who has plenty of experience with Russia and Russians. Barley, an unconventional character who doesn't respond well to authority, finds himself in a game more complex than he first thought when he digs into the origin of the notebooks.Written by
Murray Chapman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Last of the Cold War dramas? (Not for the easily distracted.)
The Russia House is a superior spy romance movie which falls short of being great. Additionally a couple of factors have been unkind to it over time.
Connery and Pfeiffer are excellant; the large cast are almost uniformly outstanding (except perhaps Roy Scheider, who I usually like, but who seems a bit over the top in his role here); the Moscow scenery and end of the Cold War feel are great, and the main characters are easy to like, if difficult to outright love. On the down side the writing assumes too much in expecting the audience to stay on top of the espionage jargon and intrigue, added to the non-linear plot. Let your attention wander and you'll lose your way. If it had been a little easier to follow, it would have left more room for dramatic tension, which was adequate but seldom riveting.
When I said that time has been unkind to The Russia House, I meant two things: firstly that the unfortunate timing of the movie's release, a year before the collapse of the Soviet Union, ensured that it would be dated almost immediately. More significantly, a growing portion of the film's potential audience didn't live through the late Soviet Era, and the nuances of concepts like Glasnost, and why Perestroika makes it hard for Pfeiffer to do her shoe-shopping aren't going to mean a thing to anyone much under 30.
But that's not the movie's fault. Russia House is still a quality, enjoyable drama with a great cast, even if it's somewhat ponderous and slow-moving, and complex. And oh yes - it has James Fox. A film like this without James Fox would have been like a table with three legs.
7 out of 10
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